New SERIES. | Marcu, 1879. [Vou. V, No. 2.


In dealing with the fine arts, we of the west are, as yet, largely confined to music and literature, the two which rank the highest, and are least commonly suggested by the term ‘‘art.”? With architecture, sculpture, and painting we are largely compelled to form our acquaintance through the imperfect medium of photographs, engravings, and written descriptions ; a method which, to a considerable extent, robs the chefs-d’cuvres of that sensuous element which is the proper body of art. Our lesser opportunities, however, find some compensation in the more vigorous effort re- quired for apprehending esthetic excellence, and a con- sequent clear appreciation of the principles which underlie all manifestations of art. The subject proposed for con- sideration is Poetry as an art, with illustrations from Chaucer, Spenser, and Milton.

The term *‘ art’’ is used by some as synonymous with the forms of art, and by others as equivalent to the artistic conception. Perfect art requires such familiarity with the material in which the artist is working, and such happiness of artistic conception, that the artist shall give the fittest expression to the happiest efforts of the imagination. Suc- cess on the formal side implies skill in the use of the fittest means; but as the suitability of means can be determined

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solely by the end sought, we shall have only the mechanism of art unless the artist possess that sensibility which will compel him to present the one combination which reflects his conception. To use a valuable, though abstract, defini- tion, true ‘‘art is spirit expressing itself in sensuous forms ;’’ and the true artist must be judged both by the quality of his conceptions (the utterances of spirit’), and by his ability to express those conceptions in forms which are appreciable through the senses (‘* sensuous forms’’).

‘¢ Literature’ is a term often used as synonymous with the written products of thought ; but properly it should be used only of belles-lettres, or of such writings as are distin- guished for beauty of expression. The complementary idea of literature is science ; the latter seeks directly to convey positive knowledge, the former to increase our culture, or to add to our breadth of thought and ease of expression. Style is the common property of literature, both in prose and in poetry, and it is the absence of style which excludes from the term ‘literature ’’ most efforts which seek to con- vey direct instruction. In a mathematical demonstration, or in a scientific investigation, beauty of style is either unattainable or disregarded ; beauty of style is precluded by the end sought, an increase of our positive knowledge. In a poem, a literary essay, or a history, beauty of expres- sion is indispensable ; for the aim is to reach the spiritual man, and not to increase the comforts of his material exist- ence. A literary work, to deserve the name, must comply with the principles of its own art form; the idea and its expression must be so wedded that they cannot be disjoined without destruction. |

‘¢ The proper characteristic of poetic thought is that it seizes the unity, the entirety, the oneness of objects in their harmonious connection, without distinguishing the parts from the whole, the means from the end, the phenom- ena from their law, the effects from their causes. Poetry

Poetry as an Art. 109

sees things exclusively as forming a living, harmonious whole, moved by a common force and soul.”” * * * ‘¢ Prosaic thought takes as a point of view rational convic- tion, and with this it regards causes and effects, ends and means, according to the abstract categories of reasoning ;”’

* * * «the relations of congruity and reciprocity which

it seizes are no longer those of harmony and beauty. The free accord, the independence of the parts, and that of the principle which develops itself in them, disappears in this conformity to ends or to positive laws;’’ * * * ‘the facts are incapable of satisfying the faculty which in every thing wishes to seize the True, the essence and unity of things, the inner harmony which dwells at the foundation of things, and which is the bond of the various parts of this universe. This defect disappears in the lofty specula- tions of thought, when science, penetrating the profound significance of phenomena and their laws, is elevated to the conception of the general order which rules the world. In this realm the poetic thought and the philosophic meet and intermingle. Yet they are still distinguishable, in that speculative thought conceives of the principles of things in an abstract manner, divested of all sensuous form; while in poetry the True remains attached to the form, and can- not detach itself from images which address the senses as well as the spirit.’’

From this difference in essence there arises a corre- sponding difference in the mode of organism, and by this are determined the language, whether we regard the vocabulary, the construction of sentences, or the versifica- tion which poetry requires. The poet sees objects through his feelings, and not through his understanding; appre- hends objects, not as composed of parts which have a for- mal connection, but as constituting single pictures, whose details are determined solely by the feeling which is para- mount. The poet utters what his feelings dictate, and not what his understanding would suggest; he is the medium

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through which his feelings find expression, and not the director of a movement in which he has no personal interest ; his is a free, creative activity, and not a capable manage- ment of intelligent skill. Such are the conditions under which poetic composition becomes possible, and these con- ditions determine the mode of organism. ‘* Every poetical product will present the image of an organic and living whole; unity must be its supreme condition. To secure this the idea must not be an abstraction, but a sentiment ; an action, or a complete passion, in which the whole man reveals himself, and which addresses itself to all of his faculties ; furthermore, this idea must be a centre of inter- est, and not an aggregation. So, too, the parts must be independent, without isolation, and must derive their value from the principal idea.”’

From these conditions it results that the figures of the poet are not selected, but form an inseparable part of the feeling which they convey; his words are not chosen, but fit themselves to his mood ; his sentences may be inverted, for they are to be as the spokes in a wheel, but they differ toto ceelo from any possible inversions in prose ; his language passes into the harmony of verse, because rhythm is an in- separable adjunct of strong feeling, and varies with each excitement of the sensibilities, not because the poet selects a harmony, but because the sacred madness by which he is possessed dictates the rhythm which is inseparable from words which are no longer mere signs and symbols, but which are permeated by the feeling which forces the poet to expression, and which, therefore, offer us ‘* thoughts that breathe and words that burn.’’

‘¢ As poetic thought conceives and represents through the image, the idea and the form are to the poet simultaneous, and constitute the poetic image. Poetic expression charac- terizes ; prosaic expression illustrates. To the poet, figu- rative expression is an end; to the prose writer, merely a

meuns.’’ Hence the characteristic difference between the

Poetry as an Art. 111

vocabularies of the poet and of the prose writer ; hence the characteristic differences of sentential construction, in

prose an arrangement determined by logic, in poetry an arrangement designed to give the fullest expression to the totality which occupies the poet’s imagination; hence, finally, versification, or that rhythmic harmony of language which is the sensuous material in which the poet works, and by means of which ‘the innermost essence of things is combined with the richness of the forms of nature.’’ There are, then, three questions which may be asked of any artist, and without an answer to each of which our judgments must be incomplete. First: What command has the artist over his materials? If a painter, does he possess perfect skill in handling his brush and in combining his colors? If a poet, are the means of expression so plastic that he never is at a loss for felicitous, melodious, and ade- quate utterance? Second: What success has the artist in realizing his own conceptions? Does he find poetic lan- guage the natural medium for the products of his imagina- tion, or does he discover an impassable gulf between his

‘‘airy nothing ”’

and ‘its local habitation and name?’’ Third: What is the value of the artist’s conceptions, even if perfectly realized? Has he ‘**carved a head upon a

cherry-stone,’’ or has he evoked from the marble a Farnese Hercules, or a Jupiter Otricoli? Has he portrayed the calm pleasures of the every-day life of commonplace people, or has he drawn in imperishable outlines the wrath of Achilles, the conflict of human passions, the tragic colli- sions of our earthly life?

Of course, as in all processes of the understanding, we must abstract elements which in a true artist are found only in combination. All art must consist of ‘* form and con- tent ;’’ either element is capable of judgment by the in- tellect, but the union which constitutes art in its true sense can be judged only by ‘spirit through sensuous forms,’’ and its appreciation is incummunicable by the processes of

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the understanding. On the formal side, ‘*‘ technique and composition ’’ exhaust the possibilities of art. In poetical art, technique resolves itself into purity and precision in words ; unity, perspicuity, propriety, variety, vivacity, and harmony in the construction of sentences; figurative ex- pression, or the language of imagination and passion. Composition will regard the fitness of the poetic forms chosen (whether literary form, like the drama or sonnet, or the lesser matter of versification), the unity of the poem, and the dependence of its several parts. The criticism which concerns itself with these formal elements may be conveniently called rhetorical criticism, as in the fine arts other than poetry it is called formal criticism.

2. When we transcend considerations of form, and empha- size ‘*the spirit, which expresses itself through sensuous forms,’’ we employ esthetic criticism, or that judgment which regards ‘* composition’’ as the work of the artistic imagination ; which regards the quality of the poet’s con- ceptions, and which demands ‘‘ unity as the supreme con- dition.”’

3. But after awarding admission to the ranks of artists, after conceding perfect art in the agreement of thought and form, we must farther inquire into a poet’s themes; for works of art possess value as they relate themselves to the lesser and more transient, or the greater and more lasting of human interests. This kind of criticism, which may properly be called philosophic, will give greater praise to Milton’s sonnet on the Piedmontese than to Waller’s ** Go, Lovely Rose ;’’ not that either is inferior as a work of formal poetic art, but because a perfect poem of gallantry is, from its theme, inferior to a sonnet which adequately expresses a righteous indignation at the persecution of man- kind’s brethren in the kingdom of God.

To begin, then, with Chaucer. What are his claims as a literary artist, what is the evidence for these claims, and, when established, what rank do they give him? In regard

Poetry as an Art. 113

to variety and character of themes we may speak somewhat at length, presuming upon a less general acquaintance with

his works. To judge Chaucer as an artist, his minor poems are more important than ‘* The Canterbury Tales,’’ for while the latter gives us the most matured experience, the nature of the undertaking limits the range and the charac- ter of the work. Perfect literary art, judged by esthetic and not by formal tests, requires three things: that its end shall be the innermost essence of things; that its means shall be images addressed to the spirit ; and that its prime, requisite shall be unity as a supreme condition. How does Chaucer answer these demands? In the first place, his view must not be purely individual and subjective, but must be universal ; that is, it must be so broad and true as to include all experiences. Let us cite a few short passages for illustration. Gentility :

What man desireth gentle for to be

* * * and all his wittes dress

Virtue to love and vices for to flee;

For unto virtue [be] longeth dignity. And not the reverse falsely, dare I deem, Al wear he mitre, crown or diadem.

Vice may well be heir to old riches, But there may no man, as men may well see, Bequeath his heir his virtues nobleness ; This is appropriated unto no degree But to the first father in majesty, That maketh his heirs them that him queme, Al wear he mitre, crown, or diadem. Ballad on Gentleness.

Like the greatest of men, Chaucer recognized, as well as stated, the mortality of mental fame. He says: But all shall pass that men prose or ryme, Take every man his turn for his own time.

—L’Envoy a Scogan.

So, too, in an age when social influences were notably

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strong, Chaucer saw that the prime factor of human success is human endeavor. He says:

No man is wretched but himself it wene, Nor he that hath in himself suffisaunce. Ballad of the Village without Painting.

Notice how far Chaucer’s insight surpassed the experience of the world, when of purity he says:

And those that wore chaplets on their heads, Of fresh woodbine, be such as never were To love untrue, in word, thought, or deed.

Of the poet’s office, he feels that it must not only have the golden tongue of Chrysostom, but must have the wis- dom of Origen. He says:

And that I do [or use] no diligence To show craft, but sentence.

Unlike many of our reputable translators, Chaucer knows that one must translate like Shelley, recreating and re-orig- inating the forms which shall do justice to the spirit of the writer translated. He says:

Adam Scrivener, if ever it thee befall

Bocaccio or Troilus to write anew, Under thy long locks thou must have the skull.

Of man’s subjection to the limitations of humanity, Chaucer says : Tho’ I praunce all before, First in the traces, full, fat, and new yshorn,

Yet am I but a horse, and a horse’s law I must endure, and with my might to draw.

Of self-knowledge and a spiritual life, a theme taken up again so effectively by Tennyson, he says:

Read well thyself that other folks canst read, And truth thee shall deliver, there is no dread. Waive thy lusts, and let thy ghost thee lead, And truth thee shall deliver, there is no dread.

va ca

Poetry as an Art. 115

So, in regard to what Gladstone calls authority in matters

of religious belief, Chaucer says :

But God forbid but men should believe

Well more things than they have seen with eye. Man shal] not wenen everything a lie,

But it himself he seeth, or else it doeth.

For, God wot, a thing is nevertheless so, Though every wight may not it see;

Well ought we then to honour and believe These books, when we have no other proof.

We have now considered Chaucer as the seer, —the cru- cial test of all esthetic criticism not formal. The second requirement of perfect art was ‘‘ images addressed to the spirit,’’ —that is, pictures not merely verbal, but such as shall stand the examination of the most searching analysis.

The knight :

Though he was worthy, he was wise, And of his port as meek as is a maid; Nor ever yet he villainy has said,

In all his life, unto the meanest wight.

Picture of utter hopelessness :

Have ye not sometimes seen a pallid face Among a press, of him that hath been led Toward his death, where he can hope no grace, And such a color in his face hath had?

Till that the soul out of his body creepeth. A beautiful woman:

And therewith was she so perfect a creature And she had been made in scorn of nature.

Chivalrous knight :

The red statue of Mars, with spere and targe, So shineth in his white banner large,

That all the fields gliteren up and down. And by his banner borne is his penon

Of gold ful riche, and which there was ybete The Minotaure which that he slew in Crete. Thus rit this duk, thus rit this conqueror,

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And in his host of chivalrie the flour,

Til that he came to Thebes, and alight

Fayre in a field, ther as he thought to fight. But shortly for to speken of this thing

With Creon, which that was of Thebes king, He fought, and slew him manly as a knight In plain bataille and put his folk to flight; And by assaut he wan the citie after,

And rent adown bothe wall and sparre, and rafter, And to the ladies he restored again

The bodies of hir housbondes that were slain, To don the obsequies, as was tho the gise.

Passing by, then, the formal art of Chaucer, what as an artist did he attempt to portray? Human life; humanity as 2 complex of various characters, each finding expression through the tone of thought which he esteems most highly ; human life as displayed through the passion of love ; some small attempts at lesser themes. To the consideration of human life are subordinated all descriptions of landscapes, all reflections, moral, religious, or ethical. For the study of a noble manhood and a pure womanhood, for beautiful descriptions of English landscapes, for clearness of insight in regard to the interests of man, Chaucer is unsurpassed.

Of Chaucer, Taine says happily: ‘*A man of mark; in- ventive though a disciple, original though a translator ; who, by his genius, education, and life, was enabled to know and to depict a whole world, but above all to satisfy the chivalric world and the splendid courts which shone upon the heights. He belonged to it, though learned and versed in all branches of scholastic knowledge ; and he took such part in it that his life, from beginning to end, was that of a man of the world and a man of action.”’

To turn to Spenser. He is weakest in unity; a defect due to his inartistic attempt to combine the capricious play of the fancy and moral instruction. With a strong ethical nature Spenser combined rare poetic faculty, but their en- forced unison bred a discord similar in kind to that which we find in the poetry of the age of Pope. No one who knows

Poetry as an Art. 117

Spenser only by reputation has any adequate idea of his variety or power ; of the insights which, while not the most profound, are nevertheless unrivalled in the poetry of reflec-

tion. All of Spenser’s defects seem to arise from his attempting to regulate poetic imagination by the laws of the prosaic understanding ; hence his imagery frequently degen- erates into a mere play of the fancy. Beautiful women, chivalric men, descriptions of scenery, the encounters of tournaments, intense personation of the passions, these find full expression ; and yet the undercurrent of an ethical purpose leaves us, at the end of each poem, wondering at Spenser’s possibilities while we resent the impotent results either to art or to philosophy. Of insights Spenser furnishes many, from which we select as follows :

SPENSER’S INSIGHTS. Perishability of fame:

O vaine worlds glorie, and unstedfast state

Of all that lives on face of sinful earth!

Which from their first untill their utmost date, Tast no one hower of happines or merth;

But like as at the ingate of their berth

They crying creep out of their mothers woomb, So wailing backe go to their wofull toomb.

Why then dooth flesh, a bubble-glas of breath, Hunt after honour and advancement vaine, And reare a trophee for devouring death With so great labour and long-lasting paine, As if his daies for ever should remaine? Sith all that in this world is great or gaie Doth as a vapour vanish and decaie. The Ruines of Time, st. 7, 8.

O trustlesse state of miserable men,

That builde your blis on hope of earthly thing, And vainly thinke your selves half happie then, When painted faces with smooth flattering Doo fawne on you, and your wide praises sing; And, when the courting masker louteth lowe, Him true in heart and trustie to you trow!

All is but fained, and with oaker dide, That everie shower will wash and wipe away;

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All things doo change that under heaven abide, And after death all friendship doth decaie. Therefore, what ever man bearst worldlie sway, Living, on God and on thy selfe relie ;

For, when thou diest, all shall with thee die.

Stanzas 29, 30.

Ignorance the destroyer of its own ends:

How manie great ones may remembred be,

Which in their daies most famouslie did florish, Of whome no word we heare, nor signe now see,

But as things wipt out with a sponge to perishe,

Because they living cared not to cherishe

No gentle wits, through pride or covetize,

Which might their names for ever memorize.

Provide, therefore, ye Princes, whilst ye live,

That of the Muses ye may friended bee,

Which unto men eternitie do give;

For they be daughters of Dame Memorie,

And Jove, the father of Eternitie,

And do those men in golden thrones repose, j Whose merits they to glorifie do chose.

Stanzas 51, 52.

In vaine doo earthly princes then, in vaine, Seeke with pyramides to heaven aspired,

Or huge colosses built with costlie paine, Or brasen pillours never to be fired,

Or shrines made of the mettall most desired, To make their memories for ever live!

For how can mortall immortalitie give?

Such one Mausolus made, the worlds great wonder, > But now no remnant doth thereof remaine;

Such one Marcellus, but was torne with thunder;

Such one Lissippus, but is worne with raine;

Such one King Edmond, but was rent for gaine. |

All such vaine moniments of earthlie masse, | Devour’d of Time, in time to nought doo passe.

Stanzas 58, 59.

Behold the fowle reproach and open shame i The which is day by day unto us wrought

By such as hate the honour of our name,

The foes of learning and each gentle thought;

They, not contented us themselves to scorne,

Doo seeke to make us of the world forlorne,

Ne onely they that dwell in lowly dust, The sonnes of darknes and of ignorance ;

Poetry as an Art,

But they whom thou, great Jove, by doome unjust Didst to the type of honour earst advaunce ;

They now, puft up with sdeignful insolence, Despise the brood of blessed Sapience,

The sectaries of my celestial skill, That wont to be the worlds chiefe ornament, And learned impes that wont to shoot up still, And grow to hight of kingdomes government, , They underkeep, and with their spredding armes, Doo beat their buds, that perish through their harms.

Or again, he exposes the baseness of ignorance by setting forth the nobility of intelligence :

It most behoves the honorable race

Of mightie peeres true wisedome to sustaine,

And with their noble countenance to grace

The learned foreheads, without gifts or gaine;

Or rather learnd themselves behoves to bee; | That is the girlond of nobilitie.

But ah! all otherwise they doo esteeme Of th’ heavenly gift of wisdomes influence, And to be learned it a base thing deeme; Base minded they that want intelligence ; For God himselfe for wisedome most is praised, And men to God thereby are nighest raised. The Teares of the Muses. Clio, st. 2-7.

Most miserable creature under sky

Man without understanding doth appeare ; b>. For all this world’s affliction he thereby,

J And fortunes freakes, is wisely taught to beare: Of wretched life the onely joy shee is,

And th’ only comfort in calamities.

: She arms the brest with constant patience Against the bitter throwes of dolours darts:

She solaceth with rules of sapience

The gentle minds, in midst of worldlie smarts:

j When he is sad, shee seeks to make him merie And doth refresh his sprights when they be werie.

But he that is of reasons skill bereft, And wants the staffe of wisedome him to stay, Is like a ship in midst of tempest left Withouten helme or pilot her to sway:

Full sad and dreadfull is that ships event;

So is the man that wants intendiment.

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Whie then doo foolish men so much despize The precious store of this celestiall riches? Why doo they banish us, that patronize The name of learning? Most unhappie wretches! The which lie drowned in deep wretchednes, Yet doo not see their owne unhappines. The Teares of the Muses. Melpomene, st. 3-6.

Such is the powre of that sweet passion,

That it all sordid basenesse doth expell,

And the refyned mynd doth newly fashion

Unto a fairer forme, which now doth dwell

In his high thought, that would itselfe excell ; Which he beholding still with constant sight, Admires the mirrour of so heavenly light.

Hyman I, l. 190-196.

Full little knowest thou that hast not tride, What hell it is in suing long to bide. Mother Hubberd’s Tale, l. 895-896. So love of soule doth love of bodie passe, No lesse than perfect gold surmounts the meanest brasse. Faerie Queene, b. IV, c. 9, st. 2.

Of the purer manners, juster laws, of the brave old days of old, Spenser says:

the antique use which was of yore, When good was onely for itself desyred, And all men sought their owne, and none no more; When justice was not for most meed outhyred,

But simple truth did rayne, and was of all admyred.

Book V, Introduction, st. 3.

True nobleness is described thus:

Therein the noblesse of this knight exceedes, Who now to perils great for justice sake proceedes. Book V, c. 2, st. 1.

Mastery required for the exercise of power:

Whoso upon himselfe will take the skill, True justice unto people to divide,

Had need have mightie hands for to fulfill

That which he doth with righteous doome decide, And for to maister wrong and puissant pride ; For vaine it is to deeme of things aright, And makes wrong-doers justice to deride,

Poetry as an Art.

Unlesse it be perform’d with dreadlesse might; For powre is the right hand of justice truely hight. Faerie Queene, b. V, c. 4, st. 1.

Of the power of beauty, Spenser has said, more happily than Pope:

Nought under heaven so strongly doth allure The sence of man, and all his mind possesse, As beautie’s lovely baite, that doth procure Great warriours oft their rigour to represse, And mighty hands forget their manlinesse ; Drawne with the powre of an heart-robbing eye, And wrapt in fetters of a golden tresse, That can with melting pleasaunce mollifye Their hardened hearts enur’d to blood and cruelty, Book V, e. &, ot. 1,

Some clarkes doe doubt in their deviceful art Whether this heavenly thing whereof I treat, To weeten mercie be of justice part,

Or drawn forth from her by divine extreate ; This well I wote, that sure she is as great, And meriteth to have as high a place.

Sith in th’ Almighties everlasting seat

She first was bred and borne of heavenly race;

From thence pour’d down on men by influence of grace.

For if that vertue be of so great might Which from just verdict will for nothing start, But, to preserve inviolated right, Oft spilles the principall to save the part; So much more then is that of powre and art That seekes to save the subject of her skill, Yet never doth from doome of right depart; As it is greater prayse to save than spill,

And better to reforme than to cut off the ill.

Book V, c. 10, st. 1, 2.

Truth crushed to earth is thus foreshadowed :

It often fals, in course of common life,”

That right long time is overborne of wrong, Through avarice, or powre, or guile, or strife, That weakens her, and makes her party strong; But Justice, though her dome she doe prolong, Yet at the last she will her owne cause right. Book V, ec. 11, st. 1.

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Insatiate ambition is thus described :

O sacred hunger of ambitious mindes, And impotent desire of men to raine! Whom neither dread of God, that devils bindes, Nor lawes of men that common-weales containe, Nor bondes of nature, that wilde beastes restraine, Can keepe from outrage and from doing wrong, Where they may hope a kingdome to obtaine; No faith so firme, no trust can be so strong,

No love so lasting then, that may enduren long.

Faerie Q ceene

The graces of courtesy are thus depicted :

What vertue is so fitting for a knight,

Or for a ladie whom a knight should love,

As courtesie; to beare themselves aright

To all of each degree as doth behove?

For whether they be placed high above

Or low beneath, yet ought they well to know

Their good; that none them rightly may reprove

Of rudeness for not yeelding what they owe; Great skill it is such duties timely to bestow.

Thereto great helpe Dame Nature selfe doth lend; For some so goodly gratious are by kind, That every action doth them much commend, And in the eyes of men great liking find; Which others that have greater skill in mind, Though they enforce themselves, cannot attaine; For everie thing, to which one is inclin’d, Doth best become and greatest grace doth gaine; Yet praise likewise deserve good thewes enforst with paine.

Book VI, c. 2, st. 182.

True is, that whilome that good poet sayd, The gentle minde by gentle deeds is knowne; For a man by nothing is so well bewrayed As by his manners; in which plaine is showne Of what degre and what race he is growne; For seldome seene a trotting stallion get An ambling colt, that is his proper owne; So seldome seene that one in basenesse set Doth noble courage shew with courteous manners met. Book VI, ¢. 3

But evermore contrary hath bene tryde, That gentle bloud will gentle manners breed. Book VI, ¢. 3

Poetry as an Art. 123

Of Spenser’s imagery, the following may. be taken as representative.

A woman crushed by sorrow:

There, on the other side, I did behold

A woman sitting sorrowfullie wailing,

Rending her yellow locks, like wyrie golde,

About her shoulders careleslie downe trailing,

And streams of teares from her faire eyes forth railing; In her right hand a broken rod she held,

Which towards heaven shee seemed on high to weld.

The land of drowsyhood :

It was the time when rest, soft sliding downe From heaven’s height into men’s heavy eyes, In the forgetfulnes of sleepe doth drowne The carefull thoughts of mortall miseries.

The Visions of Bellay, I, l. 1-4.

We have quite a touch of modern poetry in the sentiment which follows :

She fell away in her first ages spring, Whilst yet her leafe was greene, and fresh her rinde; And whilst her,braunch faire blossoms foorth did bring, She fell away like fruit blowne down with winde. Weepe, Shepheard! weepe, to make my under song.

Daphnaida, I, st. 37.

Daphnaida, II, 1-7. Beautiful picture of the death of a lovely girl. Daphnaida, III, 1-7.

Honorable pride: Amoretti, st. 5.

Physical beauty: Amoretti, st. 37.

Hymn to beauty, |. 85-273.

Attractive solitude :

A little lowly hermitage it was, Downe in a dale, hard by a forest's side, Far from resort of people, that did pas In traveill to and froe; a little wyde Ther was an holy chappell edifyde, Wherein the hermit duly wont to say His holy things each morn and eventyde. Thereby a christall streame did gently play, Which from a sacred fountaine welled forth alway. Faerie Queene, 6. I, st. 1-34. Vol. 5. No. 2—9

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Description :

Next unto him was Neptune pictured,

In his divine resemblance wondrous lyke ;

His face was rugged, and his hoarie hed

Dropped with brackish deaw; his threeforkt pyke He stearnly shooke, and therewith fierce did stryke The raging billowes, that on every syde

They trembling stood, and made a long broad dyke,

That his swift charet might have passage wyde, Which foure great hippodames did draw in teamwise tyde. ,

His sea horses did seeme to snort amayne, And from their nosethrilles blow the brynie streame That made the sparckling waves to smoke agayne And flame with gold; but the white fomy creame Did shine with silver, and shoot forth his beame: The god himselfe did pensive seeme and sad, And hong adowne his head as he did dreame. Faere Queene, b. III, c. 2, st. 40, 41.

Discord :

Her face most fowle and filthy was to see, With squinted eves contraérie ways intended, And loathly mouth, unmeate a mouth to bee, That nought but gall and venim comprehended, And wicked wordes that God and man offended: Her lying tongue was in two parts divided, And both the parts did speake, and both contended ; And as her tongue so wos her hart discided, That never thought one thing, but doubly stil was guided.

Als as she double spake, or heard she double, \

With matchlesse eares deforméd and distort,

Fild with false rumors and seditious trouble,

Bred in assemblies of the vulgar sort

That still are led with every light report:

And as her eares, so eke her feet were odde,

And much unlike; th’ one long, the other short,

And both misplast; that, when th’ one forward gode, The other backe retired and contrarie trode.

Likewise unequall were her handés twaine ; That one did reach, the other pusht away ; That one did make, the other mard againe, And sought to bring all things unto decay ; Whereby great riches, gathered manie a day, She in short space did often bring to nought, And their possessours often did dismay :

Poetry as an Art.

For all her studie was, and all her thought How she might overthrow the things that Concord wrought.

So much her malice did her might surpass, That even th’ Almightie selfe she did maligne, Because to man so mercifull he was, And unto all his creatures so benigne, Sith she herself was of his grace indigne: For all this worlds faire workmanship she tride Unto his last confusion to bring, p ) And that great golden chaine quite to divide, With which it blessed Concord hath together tide. Faerie Queene, b. IV, ¢. 1, st. 27-30.

Temple of Venus, b. IV, c. 10, st. 5-57 ; Marriage of the Thames and the Medway, 11, st. 1-53; Mercellaes Palace, b. V, c. 9, st. 23-33.

‘¢ What distinguishes Spenser from all other poets,’’ says M. Taine,” is the mode of his imagination. Generally, the imagination ferments vehemently ; Spenser remains calm in the fervor of invention. He presents consecutive and noble, almost classical, images,—so nearly ideas that the mind seizes them unaided and unawares ; he is always sim- ple and clear; he makes no leap, he omits no argument, he robs no word of its primitive and ordinary sense, he pre- serves the natural sequence of ideas. He is redundant, ingenuous, and even childish. Spenser found himself at one with his subject ; he was on the level of so much noble- ness, dignity, reverie ; he is not yet settled and shut in by that species of exact common sense which was to found and cramp the whole modern civilization. | Spenser’s character- istic is the vastness and the overflow of picturesque inven- tion. With Spenser the colorists and architects have come ; they understand proportions, relations, contrast ; they com- pose.”’

Milton has a wider range than is ordinarily supposed, and yet, to a certain extent, he is but a more mature Spen- ser, falling upon times better suited for the display of his unique genius. Man as a religious and contemplative being is Milton’s constant theme; and while he escapes the gen-

126 The Western.

eral faults of Spenser, he still suffers from the interference in finding through the prosaic understanding the themes which he is to execute poetically. The predominance of Milton’s intellectual views prevents that free play of the faculties which alone results in the highest creations of poetic art. Hence, with an art sense which guides him safely

through his lesser flights, which gives us such perfect specimens as his sonnets, his ** Epithalamium,”’ his ** Ly- cidas,’” **Comus,’’ and ‘* Samson Agonistes,’’ Milton fails westhetically in his most ambitious poems, because his strong desire ‘* to justify the ways of God to man”’ over- rides his artist’s sense of the unfitness of the theme for poetic endeavor.

Milton’s language is determined in part by the necessities of the time in which he lived, in part by the nagure of his undertaking, in part by the audience for which he wrote ; but, after all due allowance for these necessities, we must admit that his vocabulary is unnecessarily learned, and that, like Carlyle, he regarded language as the property of authors. In his images Milton is prevailingly happy; at times there is a coarseness, evidently inoffensive in the Elizabethan era, but in the government of his imagination Milton is unsurpassed. His versification shows great mas- tery, and has a majesty all its own. Felicity of diction is a marked characteristic, so that rhetorically Milton is very strong. From the stand-point of esthetic criticism Milton holds a very high rank, falling below the highest excellence in the ** Paradise Lost’’ and ** Paradise Regained.’’ The themes of these poems preclude treatment in dramatic or epic form; a Protestant must necessarily deal with the world to come only in the lyric form.

The character, as well as the quality, of Milton’s mind may best be felt by slightly changing the plan pursued in Chaucer and Spenser, and reading consecutively passages selected at random from the many which illustrate Milton’s rank as a seer: an Art.


What in me is dark Illumine; what is low, raise and support. Paradise Lost, I, l. 22.

A mind not to be changed by place or time. The mind is its own place, and in itself Can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.

Lines 253-255.

Virtue could see to do what virtue would, By her own radiant light, though sun and moon Were in the flat sea sunk. Samson Agonistes, 1.